Dr. Alexander Müller successfully completed his Doctor of Business Administration at Munich Business School (MBS) and Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) in 2020 with a dissertation on image theory. In this interview, he talks about his motivation for the doctoral program, the development of his research topic, and his biggest hurdles and successes during and after the DBA. In addition, academic director of the DBA Prof. Dr. David Wagner provides insights into the structure of the program.
MBS Insights: Prof. Wagner, how is the DBA program of Sheffield Hallam University, which Munich Business School organizes, structured? What distinguishes the DBA from a PhD?
Prof. Dr. David Wagner: The DBA program is structured in two phases: The first one is the preparatory phase, in which three modules have to be completed and the project proposal needs to be refined. The modules are called Critical Thinking in Business Administration, Contemporary Issues in Business and Management, and Research Approaches and Designs. The second is the research stage, during which the DBA candidates work on their own projects and complete the DBA research, including data collection, analysis, and write-up. The first phase spans over the first 1.5 to 2 years of the program, the second phase is ideally completed by year 4 of the program.
What makes the program different from traditional PhD programs, at least those in Germany? In my eyes, there are three unique features. First and foremost, the program is part-time, allowing DBA candidates to pursue a day job, while completing the DBA on the side. Second, the program is structured, meaning that the three modules named above are required to complete the degree. Essentially, they are supposed to provide the theoretical foundation for the project work of the DBA candidates. Third, the DBA program has a stronger practical orientation. A lot of DBA candidates are trying to use the DBA as a vehicle to do in-depth research on a current work challenge they are facing.
MBS Insights: Dear Alexander, you recently graduated from the DBA program. Congratulations! Why did you choose the DBA program at SHU and MBS?
Dr. Alexander Müller: After finishing additional studies in economics, I was looking for a part-time doctoral program that combined managerial practice with academic research and rigour. I evaluated the information available on the internet and decided for the approach of the Munich Business School and Sheffield Hallam University partnership since it offers a thorough introduction to and preparation for academic research whilst providing international exposure combined with the academic reputation of both institutions.
MBS Insights: In your opinion, what is the unique feature of the DBA program, Prof. Wagner?
Prof. Dr. David Wagner: MBS is a family-like place. We usually accept around 12 DBA candidates per year. Such a small group means that people get to know each other really well – which holds for both the DBA candidates themselves and the lecturers they meet during the program. The DBA candidates are intellectually curious, very experienced in their managerial roles and normally have a strong international background. This makes the group a wonderful place to have deep discussions with like-minded peers. Especially through the collaboration with Sheffield Hallam University, a large university, there is a wide variety of supervisors available from all management backgrounds, both in terms of disciplines they are in as well as in terms of methods they have been using. This means there is also strong institutional support for the successful completition of DBA projects.
MBS Insights: Back to you, Alexander – how did you come up with your research topic?
Dr. Alexander Müller: This was indeed a journey! When applying for the DBA program I had a first, rough idea what topic I would like to research. This was obviously strongly rooted in my world of thought at that time created by my experience and education. However, when I learned about how knowledge is created and about the various approaches of perceived reality, I started to reflect on my experience and mindset. Eventually, and after discussing with my peer students, I changed my research topic. The process that led me to the research project was certainly a very rewarding one.